• 2023 June 9

    Quality of bunker fuel in details

    IAA PortNews has discussed acute issues of marine fuel production and quality amid current situation with Marina Lobashova, Director for Quality, New Technologies Monitoring Center (NTMC).

    - What restrictions on marine fuels should be respected today?

    - When acquiring marine fuel, a shipowner is clearly aware of several restrictions in its use: these are MARPOL 2020 requirements and additional requirements for bunker fuel used in emission control areas (ECAs). There are several ways to get marine fuels complying with those requirements - hydrotreatment of residual components, mixing of high-sulfur heavy and low-sulfur distillate components, application of alternative marine fuels. Each of the ways has its advantages and disadvantages.

    - What are the key problems of bunker quality? What causes them?

    - These are mainly fuel stability problems caused by incompatibility of marine fuel components, either during production or, most likely, during bunkering.

    One of the most acute problems in production of bunker fuel amid the current production conditions in Russia is the problem of the aggregate stability of fuels obtained by mixing refined petroleum products with various compositions and properties. For example, according to VPS Marine Fuel Insights, VLSFO stability problems almost doubled by the end of 2022 compared to the beginning of the year.

    - How serious is that for ship owners and what solutions would you recommend?

    - Of course, that is serious for ship owners. Low stability of heavy fuel oil and sediment can cause problems both at the phase of storing (accumulation of "dead" residue in tanks, hence deterioration in the quality of discharged oil products and reduction of tanks’ useful volume), and at the phase of using fuel (blocking of filters, clogging of tubes in engine, etc.). Not only can this cause engine stalling but also threatens with downtime and fines. A solution to the problem is to buy fuel from reliable suppliers, be especially careful when checking fuel compliance with the standards in terms of stability (the standardized indicator is the total sediment with aging). Also, one of the solutions is to use special dispersant additives (stabilizers), which prevent the association of resins and asphaltine components and maintain them in a finely dispersed state.

    - What refineries produce marine fuels? What technologies are used?

    - Marine fuels are produced by almost all major vertically-integrated oil companies: ROSNEFT, GAZPROM, LUKOIL, as well as independent refineries. Most often the process is regulated by corporate standards and specifications, less often by GOST. As for the production technologies, this is primarily blending of various components. For distillate fuels, these are straight-run fractions, hydroprocesses (hydrotreating, hydrocracking), coking products, catalytic cracking. For residual fuels, fuel oil, tar, visbreaking products, oil production components and others can be added to the above mentioned components.

    - How do you register problems with marine fuel quality?

    - NTMC specialists conduct global monitoring of sources related to production technologies, the quality of all fuels, including marine ones. These are reports from VPS, SGS, IMO Committee for Environmental Protection, Committee for the Protection of the Marine Environment, articles from technical sources, patents, dissertations.

    Besiddes, we keep track of new standards and amendments/changes to existing regulations regarding marine fuels. Based on the results of monitoring declarations of conformity with TR CU 013/2011 available on the information portal of the Federal Accreditation Service (03.12.2022-16.01.2023), new and upgraded fuels are monitored on the EAEU market.

    - What are the prospects of marine fuel production?

    - Since MARPOL 2020 restriction entered into force, the amount of VLSFO bunkered globally has increased significantly, but high sulfur fuel (HSFO) still makes significant share. There are no crucial changes in ULSFO bunkering volumes, since the sulfur limit in SECA zones was introduced back in 2015. Apart from using low sulfur marine fuel or high sulfur in conjunction with a scrubber, MARPOL requirements can be met by using alternative types of marine fuels that have a number of advantages, the main of which is low or zero emissions of harmful substances and greenhouse gases.

    If we consider the review of global projects (IEA, Advanced Motor Fuels, E4Tech, UMAS) and promising areas in the development of marine fuels, many of which are focused on alternative fuels, fuel cell, electric engine, ammonia and hydrogen are referred to as the most promising alternatives. The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) notes the high potential of methanol as a marine fuel.

    The mentioned alternatives are highly attractive options for replacing petroleum fuels, but their large-scale entry into the market is only possible in the long term, while today the leading positions are held by liquefied natural gas (LNG), liquefied hydrocarbon gases (LPG), and biofuels (HVO, FAME).

    - Do you expect a revision of Russian standards for marine fuel with respect of the existing restrictions on sulfur content or a development of new VLSFO standards with a 0.50% sulfur cap?

    - According to Appendix 7 to TR CU 031/2011, sulfur cap is set at 0.5% from 1 January 2020. Until December 31, 2023, ships involved in inland waterway transportation are allowed to produce and use marine fuel with sulfur content not exceeding 1.5%. At the moment, possible extension of this period is under consideration. The Competence Center for admission and testing of petroleum products has been established at the National University of Oil and Gas named after I.M. Gubkin and the work with the Technical Committee 031 "Petroleum fuels and lubricants" is underway to revise a number of standards for fuels and amending GOST 32510 "Marine fuels. Specifications”, particularly on sulfur and on the use of low-carbon components in the fuel composition.

    - Are there any prospects for domestic production of VLSFO with a viscosity of 200 - 400 cSt at 50 Celsius degrees?

    - 30% of Russian fuel compositions under monitoring have sulphur content below 0.46%, while globally their share is about 10%. However, Russian VLSFO and ULSFO, as a rule, have rather low viscosity-density characteristics. There are no facilities for hydrotreatment of residual fractions in Russia, there are no technologies for direct hydrotreatment of residual components of commercial marine fuels.

    Interviewed by Sofia Vinarova

    NTMC Director for Quality Marina Lobashova will speak with a detailed report “Acute issues of marine fuel production and quality amid current situation” at the 16th All-Russia Forum "Current State and Prospects for the Development of the Russian Bunkering Services Market".

    Partners: Sberbank, Gazpromneft Marine Bunker, Baltic Fuel Company, InterFerrum-Metall, Record Group, Infotec-Flex.

    Additional information is available on the 
    website  of the Forum organizer, Association of Marine and River Bunker Suppliers and in Telegram

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